India And Pakistan: NJ 9842 And Beyond
By Ravi Nitesh
05 September, 2013
The present world has created false needs. One of these is the need for arms. Millions of dollars have been and are spent in the name of security while the world still remains insecure in many ways. Countries are proving themselves more powerful on the basis of their ‘strength’ judged by their ‘advancement’ in ‘defense’. Two Asian countries India and Pakistan have their own history of separation followed by wars and hatred that have made them fierce competitors in arms. From the nuclear race to world’s highest battle ground.
It was NJ 9842 (a map coordinate point) that lies on LoC or Line of Control (between India and Pakistan as per Simla Agreement in 1972) and mentioned in this agreement as the ‘northernmost demarcated point’ beyond which there was no demarcation of LoC (of India and Pakistan) and for the area north to this coordinate point, the agreement refers the area as ‘from this point to thence north’ without drawing any clear cut line. It was, though probably a mistake, that the armies of both sides did this, at that time. They may have left this area (from NJ 9842 to thence north) to be interpreted as per their requirement or probably on the basis of the fact that the area beyond this marked point NJ9842 was occupied with thence glaciers and extreme inhospitable environment where no movement of any armies were ever traced even after three wars (1947, 1965, 1971) between these countries. However, unfortunately, the situation did not remain the same after 1984.
Today, the area beyond NJ9842 is popularly known as the place of glaciers. But more importantly, it is the place of ‘forced habitation’ of ‘armies’. This area includes the Siachen Glacier which is now the highest battle field of the world. The story is important because this place which is now such an important place, from strategic or defense point of view, was not important at all during the three major wars. It was made important afterwards and was converted into a place of continuous battleground. This happened in the year 1984 when after ‘operation Meghdoot’, India helidropped its soldiers on peaks of the glaciers.
This forced war for which neither the hostile environment is supportive nor there seems to be any necessity has put a burden on the common men on both sides. This is because, to make this war sustain, both countries are spending heavily, somewhere around 200-300 million dollars each year. This deviated expenditure could have been used to improve the prospects for a better life for the common public of both countries. Not just this, this forced inhabitation for a continuous war (though officially stopped by a ceasefire agreement in 2003) has not only meant a loss of huge sums of money but also costs precious lives of soldiers of both sides. More than 1000 soldiers have been killed and more than 3000 have been permanently disabled, not with the bullets but due to inhospitable terrain, effect of altitude and weather. In the year 2012, a severe avalanche claimed lives of approx 140 army personals of Pakistan. On Indian side, it was roughly estimated that more than 300 persons lost their lives till now. So the question is, where is the need? Aren’t their lives important? Why the continuous war with environment?
Whosoever was responsible for this, the name doesn’t matter anymore. What matters are the lives of the soldiers. Think about the thousands of families who pride that their sons are defending the ‘land’ of their country, a land that is not fit to live, even for vegetation, a land that was not important till 37 years of separation (of Indian and Pakistan in 1947) and became important some 29 years ago (in the year 1984), a land that takes and will continue to take hundreds of sons every year without any declared war.
This continuous forced war also has other effects. It adds to the jingoistic sentiments among people, without any reason. It gives a reason for loss of precious lives without any reason, it gives a reason for the harmful effects on glacial environment and causing climate change without any reason, also it sadly provides a chance to diplomatic and political talks on this reason while there could be more positive and developmental issues of talk. Though it has already happened, it gives us a message and an understanding to be followed in the future. The message is to avoid “creating” military conflicts. Military deployment and conflict should be avoided at all cost, but without compromising on the security measures which should be “real”, not imaginary and constructed. Doing so, we will respect and save precious lives of our soldiers and will also save the huge expenditure for development and welfare of the people.
I would like to end by quoting from the letter that was written by a lieutenant general, Inder Gill, to The Hindu (a newspaper of India) on 5 March 1997. Gill retired as the army commander of Western Command remarked:
“The amount of money wasted by both sides is very large indeed. There is nowhere that either side can go in this terrain. You cannot build roads on glacier, which are moving rivers of ice. We have no “strategic-tactical advantage” in this area and nor can Pakistan. Ask any officer who has been on the glacier what Pakistan will do if we pull out, and he will tell you at once that Pakistan will do the same. We must withdraw immediately and unilaterally and save wastage of money which we cannot afford."
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